In a lot of ways, guitar players are a fortunate bunch. One of the biggest pieces of evidence for this is the fact that we can make a few changes with fingerings or chords if something is a bit tough for us. Have you ever noticed that some songs have some different chords or chord fingerings than what you’re used to? A big reason for this isn’t just the difference in sound, in fact, a lot of times the sound can be almost the same. Whether they’re willing to admit it or not, a lot of times these tweaks are actually to make chord transitions (which always are the hard part of any song for a beginner) easier.
In this series of blogs, we’ll be looking at chord progressions that show up quite often in our guitar playing journey, and how we could make these changes a bit speedier. In this post, we’ll be talking about probably the most common groups of chords we come across: G, C, and D.
When faced with these chords, in any order, try these shapes out:
There are so many songs out there with these chords there is no way to even comprehend the number. Luckily, we guitarists have a little trick.
Notice the G chord has four fingers in it, rather than three. Why would we subject ourselves to making any chord harder than it already is you ask? The answer is because the struggle we have to go through to reshape this chord will pay off by making it so much easier to switch to the other chords.
A G chord is what we call a triad. A triad is a chord that has only three notes. We guitar players, however, have six strings, and therefore like to repeat some of those three notes to play all six strings and get a bigger sound. The notes from low to high in a traditional three-finger G chord are G-B-D-G-B-G. In this new four-finger version however, the notes are now G-B-D-G-D-G. As you see, nothing has fundamentally changed about this chord. All that has happened is that rather than repeating a B, we’re repeating a D. In fact, if you were to play these two versions together, you’ll hear barely any difference, if any.
However, if you compare this version of G to the Cadd9 (that we’ll talk about next), you’ll see the chords are practically the same. All you have to do is move your second and first finger both over a string and voila! That’s a whole lot easier than totally changing your fingering when going from a traditional G to a traditional C.
Also, that ring finger on the third fret helps connect us to a D chord. Rather than totally changing your fingers, you can keep you ring finger planted where it is for the G, since that note is also in the D chord, and just fill in the other two thirds.
Let’s take a look at this Cadd9. I know this sounds fancy, but all you really need to know is that an add9 chord is exactly what it sounds like. It’s just a triad, and we are adding the 9th of the scale. You don’t have to understand what this means specifically for now. Just think of a Cadd9 as a C with a little extra flavor. Because this chord is just a C with sprinkles on top, that means it can function in the same way as a normal C chord would. 9 times out of 10 you can play a Cadd9 in place of a C in a song and have it work just fine. There are occasions where there’s a conflict, but again, fundamentally, the chords are the same.
This Cadd9 position has a lot of advantages. Firstly, sometimes it sounds even better than a normal C. A lot of guitarists choose this chord over a traditional C for sound alone.
Also, that transition we talked about from the four-finger G to Cadd9 that was so easy obviously also works in reverse. This chord also gives you that anchor on the third fret of the B string to connect you to the D chord.
As I said before, G, C, and D major chords tend to show up together VERY OFTEN in all types of combinations. Switching your fingerings to the chords I have above can really speed up those pesky transitions that are normally so hard.
We’ll be talking about more common chord progressions, and how to make them easier in future blogs! For now, is there anything you’d like to add? Leave a comment below! You can also subscribe to our blog here to stay up to date with future posts, as well as follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!
Guitar Instructor, Co-Owner
Green Music School